Music | University of Oxford
Music student
Music student playing piano.
(Credit: Stuart Bebb)

Music

mortar boardUCAS codeW300calendarDuration3 years (BA)
pencilEntrance requirementsAAAHeadSubject requirements

 Music (see Admissions Requirements tab)
 ABRSM Grade V keyboard ability or above

tickAdmissions test(s)Performance piecetickWritten workThree pieces
bar chartAdmissions statistics*

Interviewed: 92%
Successful: 38%
Intake: 72
*3-year average 2016-18

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+44 (0) 1865 286264
Email Music

Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

Unistats information for this course can be found at the bottom of the page

Please note that there may be no data available if the number of course participants is very small.

Music is everywhere in the world around us; it is part of all of our lives, whether we play it, actively listen to it, or hear it in passing. At Oxford, we study music by reading, listening, performing and composing. We create music in all its aspects – acoustic, electronic, individually and communally, working with world-class professionals and with local communities. We investigate, through analysis, the relationships within a piece of music, and between that piece and its genre and context. Throughout the course, you will be exposed to music of all kinds and in all contexts: Western classical, popular music, musics of other cultures, community music, seeing these musics in terms of their history (and how that history has been shaped over time), social context, and psychology.


Music has been part of the life of Oxford for more than 800 years. There are around 30 academic staff, of whom 15 give lectures regularly – scholars with distinguished reputations as musicologists, performers or composers. Oxford welcomes visits from numerous speakers and professional performing ensembles. Students enjoy performance and composition workshops, and play an active part in the life of the faculty and their colleges – in chapels, orchestras, ensembles, bands and stage performances, and in musical outreach to the broader community.

The faculty building incorporates practice rooms, electronic music and recording studios, and one of the best music libraries in any British university. The world-famous Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, housed in the faculty, lends historical instruments to students. The faculty also has a gamelan orchestra.

The course is broadly based but allows increasing specialisation and choice as you proceed. Whether you’re a performer, a composer, a budding scholar of psychology, history, sociology or education, the Music course offers something for you. Students graduate as mature and well-rounded musicians with an informed and lively sense of the contemporary study and practice of the subject, and the ways in which music contributes to society more broadly.

Music students Students studying
“The Oxford music course suits me because it is broad and varied, but also has lots of space to make it my own. For my final exams I am sitting papers in broad aspects of music history (from English renaissance polyphony to electronic music), analysis, and issues to do with how we study music but I am also writing a dissertation about the music in a primary school near Oxford, essays on Brazilian music, and a report from the term I spent working on a music project with children with autism. I have friends who are playing the Rite of Spring for piano duet for a chamber music exam, who are singing Schubert Lieder for a solo recital, and who are analysing Bach organ fugues for an analysis portfolio – and those are just the people in my year in my college!”
SARAH
 “From playing for three evensongs a week to being immersed in the sound world of the Bosavi Rainforest people in Papua New Guinea, Oxford has been a fantastic experience so far. One aspect of Oxford’s music course that first attracted me was the diversity and the choice it gives students, particularly in the final year. I am currently studying a variety of history topics, ranging from the 13th-century motet to film music, along with some composition and analysis courses. I want to be a performer and knowing that I can choose to concentrate on this later in the course has helped me to focus my interests throughout the term.”
OLIVIA

Music

A typical week

  • Four to six lectures
  • One or two tutorials in college
  • Practice, workshops and rehearsals
  • More time for independent study in the summer terms

Tutorials are usually 2-4 students and a tutor. Lecture sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. Compulsory lectures are the largest and will include the full year group of around 70 students, while the smallest lectures, for specialist options, might include fewer than 10 students.  Seminars will also usually involve 10-12 students.

Most lectures are delivered by Associate Professors and Professors within the University.  Most of these professors are also college subject tutors (although not all college tutors are University lecturers). Each college’s subject tutor is responsible for giving and coordinating tutorials.  Many tutors are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching (mostly at tutorial level) may also be delivered by postgraduate students, who are usually studying at doctoral level. To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

Course structure

YEAR 1

COURSES

Six subjects are taken (two chosen from a list of options)

  • Compulsory:
    • Special topics, for example: Machaut’s songs; Historically informed performance; Schubert’s last decade; Psychology of everyday musical experience; Global hip hop
    • Musical analysis and critical listening
    • Techniques of composition and keyboard skills
  • Options:
    • Foundations in the study of music
    • Foundations in ethnomusicology
    • Composition
    • Performance
    • Extended essay

ASSESSMENT

Three written papers and one ‘take-away’ paper, a practical examination and a recital/portfolio of compositions/essay

YEARS 2 AND 3

COURSES

Eight subjects are taken (six chosen from a list of options)

  • Compulsory
    • Topics 1 (three from a range of historical and critical fields, eg in 2018-19: Sacred Renaissance polyphony on the Continent; History and philosophy of music education; Bach’s keyboard music)
    • Topics 2 (three from a range of historical and critical fields, eg in 2018-19: 18th-century opera; Modernism in Vienna, 1900- 1935; Scenes and subcultures in the 20th century)
  • Optional topics studied
    • Musical analysis and criticism
    • Musical thought and scholarship
    • Techniques of composition
    • Solo performance
    • Orchestration
    • Dissertation
    • Composition portfolio
    • Edition with commentary
    • Analysis portfolio
    • Music ethnography
    • Chamber music performance
    • Choral conducting
    • Choral performance
    • Recording and producing music
    • Special topic papers. Some recent examples include: Music perception; Music in Scandinavia; Women composers; Dance music; Lieder; Music and society in England, 1851–1914; Music in the community
Please note that the courses listed above are illustrative and may change. A full list of current options is available on the Music website.

ASSESSMENT

Final University examinations: three or more written papers (two compulsory and one chosen from three options) and a combination of take-away papers, portfolio submissions, recitals and practical tests, depending on the options chosen

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

Academic requirements 

A-levels:AAA
Advanced Highers:                    AA/AAB
IB: 38 (including core points) with 666 at HL                                                                          
Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

Subject requirements

  Essential: Candidates are expected to have Music to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent.* 
  Recommended: Keyboard ability of ABRSM Grade V or above is also highly recommended.

* If your school does not offer A-level Music: A-level Music Technology and Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus two other A-Level subjects. If your school does not offer A-level Music or A-level Music Technology: Grade 7 or above Music Theory (ABRSM), plus three A-Level subjects. If your school does not offer A-levels, you will need to take equivalent qualifications (including in Music); the University Admissions pages specify the standard you will need to attain. If you are unsure about your qualifications please contact academic.admin@music.ox.ac.uk.  

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Applying

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Admissions tests

There is no written test, but candidates who are invited to interview in Oxford will be asked to give a performance of a prepared piece on the candidate’s principal instrument or voice (organists, percussionists and candidates requiring an accompanist should inform the faculty in advance of the interview period). 

Candidates not possessing keyboard fluency to ABRSM Grade V may be asked to take a standardised keyboard sight-reading test at interview. Please indicate your level of keyboard proficiency on your UCAS application. Some tutors may ask you to study a short piece of music and/or text about music in preparation for your interview; if so, this material will be given to you during your stay in Oxford.

Written work

Description: Two teacher-marked essays (at least one of which should normally be on music) and one or two examples of teacher-marked harmony and counterpoint (eg Baroque chorale, 16th-century counterpoint, 2-part invention, string quartet, Romantic songs). If you wish, you may also submit one or two short examples of original composition, which should be in some form of notated score. Please note, the emphasis in on quality of thought, not on quantity, so each of the two essays should be around 1500 words. If you send physical copies, please print on only one side of the paper.
Submission deadline:  10 November 2019

For more information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

Potential to engage with the course in its full diversity through a genuine spirit of enquiry; keenness to think critically about music; as well as creativity and independent thought in areas of specialism (musicology, composition, performance, ethnomusicology, psychology of music, musical analysis). For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Music website.

Careers

The varied nature of the course enables students to develop highly desirable skills in areas such as self-management, creativity, data analysis, performance, teamwork, problem-solving, and communication, all of which makes them an attractive prospect for potential employers. Teaching, performance and arts administration are among the popular destinations for Music graduates, but others include broadcasting, publishing, law, politics and the Civil Service. Many students undertake further study in performance, often at conservatoires in the UK and abroad. Rather than limiting your career prospects, a music degree opens doors to a wide range of careers both within and outside the arts.

After graduating, Fabienne secured a marketing and public relations internship with the Philharmonia Orchestra. She then worked for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra before being headhunted for her current role as Head of Communications and Marketing at Intermusica, an industry-leading international classical music management agency. She says; ‘Our roster includes Marin Alsop, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Daniil Trifonov, Sir Willard White, James MacMillan, Leonidas Kavakos and many others. Naturally my music degree has proved an extremely helpful foundation for a career in classical music management but I would say that the most important thing I gained from Oxford was confidence and resilience and being able to meet people from all walks of life.’

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Latest information for UK and EU undergraduates who will begin their course in 2020 can be found here. Further information for EU students starting in 2020 is available here.

The fees and funding information below relates to those who will start at Oxford in 2020.

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2020.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£9,250
Overseas£30,030

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2020 are estimated to be between £1,135 and £1,650 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support

Home/EU

A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2020 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to UK and EU students with a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to UK students from households with incomes of £27,500 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

Islands
(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Music

Students may choose to have instrumental or voice tuition as part of their course, though please note that performance is not compulsory. With advice from your tutors, you can choose your own instrumental tutors. You will need to pay for these lessons yourself, but the money will be refunded by the Music Faculty at the end of term, up to £275. This usually covers the full cost of tuition.

Students can also apply to take part in a  Faculty-funded scheme with the Royal Academy of Music, which provides 8 hourly lessons and participation in master-classes and performance classes at the RAM.

Contextual information

Course data from Discover Uni provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.

More about Oxford colleges and how you choose